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The Ministry of the Assembly?

I would imagine that, if questioned, the majority of parishioners would offer that they are not serving as a special ‘minister’ when they attend Sunday Mass. They attend Mass for a variety of reasons: because it’s what they do on Sunday, or because they want/need to pray, or because it is an obligation, or it is expected or it is where they meet friends and family. All of those reasons and more, but not that they attend Mass because they have a ministry to fulfill every week and that their participation is actually needed. The answer to this question begins with our Baptism. By virtue of baptism we received our identity as Christians; as priest, prophet and King, as beloved daughters and sons of God and as members of the Body of Christ. We became and continue to be the Church made visible to each other and to the world. It is our identity as the Body of Christ that we acknowledge, affirm and strengthen every time we attend Mass.

That is our ministry-the Ministry of the Assembly. The ministry of the assembly is to participate actively, consciously and fully. I know that I, and my family, have always been regular Mass attendees, even when I and my siblings were quite young. My father was an usher and even served as the usher coordinator for years. I remember the many phone calls he made ensuring every Mass was covered. My brothers were altar servers (I was quite envious!!) and I sang in the parish choir for years, eventually accompanying Masses. We participated actively and fully, but I was not conscious of my identity as both Body of Christ and as a minister of the assembly. When we gather as assembly we call to mind and live out our identity as the Body of Christ. We stand, sit, kneel, listen, sing, pray, give and receive, process, interact with others and encounter God. We bring our joys and challenges to worship and offer them up to God in the silence before the Collect. But we aren’t merely going through the motions. As a member of the assembly we surrender to God’s transforming action and we let go of our individuality-our personal likes, dislikes, needs and desires-and we surrender ourselves to be the Body of Christ at Mass. That is something very challenging for many, since we cherish our individuality. But, our ministry is part of a communal event-we are ministering to each other; our ministry involves building up the Body of Christ. We attend Mass and hear the Word of God proclaimed and receive our gospel mission, and then process to receive the Body of Christ to strengthen ourselves to receive the dismissal. This dismissal is an invitation to take our ministry of the assembly into our daily living and continue being the Body of Christ for those we encounter in our lives. Ministry…flows out of baptism and membership in the church community. But it involves something more than Christian life. It involves taking up the mission of Jesus. It involves doing something to advance the kingdom of God. Christian ministry is any activity, done on behalf of the church community, that proclaims, celebrates, and serves the reign of God. Ministry is not restricted to the activities of the ordained; nor is it equivalent to every good deed done by a Christian. Ministry involves a mission. It entails a relationship and a responsibility to the church community. It aims at the same goal that was the purpose of Jesus’ life: to recognize and welcome the special presence of God in our midst.(Source: Edward P. Hahnenberg, Theology for Ministry.) So, I challenge you to embrace your ministry! Each of us is a Minister of the Assembly-participate fully, actively and consciously as the Body of Christ as we live the transformation we experience during Mass. - Kathleen DeJardin


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